Overnight Energy: Trump moves to speed up pipeline construction | House Dems urge Senate to reject Interior nominee | Dem offers plan for 'filling in the blanks' of Green New Deal

TRUMP MOVES TO EASE BARRIERS TO PIPELINE CONSTRUCTION: President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed two executive orders meant to eliminate hurdles to new and existing natural gas pipeline construction across the U.S.

"In a few moments I will sign two groundbreaking executive orders to continue the revival of the American energy industry and will cut through destructive permitting delays and denials," Trump said at an event with engineers in Texas on Wednesday, before signing the two orders. "Where it will take you 20 years to get a permit, those days are gone."

The actions aim to boost energy infrastructure and remove specific barriers blocking existing plans for cross-country natural gas transportation and interstate pipeline construction.

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Speaking at the International Union of Operating Engineers International Training and Education Center in Crosby, Texas, Trump called the presidential orders "groundbreaking" measures to "continue the revival of the American energy industry."

"We made a lot of progress in the last two and half years haven't we. We took down a lot of barriers to production and the pumping," Trump told the crowd.

What the orders do: The orders specifically take aim at key pipeline hold-ups, such as on the Constitution Pipeline, a 124-mile natural gas pipeline project from Pennsylvania to New York.

The project received a federal permit in 2014 but has since been halted by state regulators. New York has refused to issue a key water permit to begin construction, arguing the pipeline would threaten groundwater reserves, which the state has the ability to regulate under the Clean Water Act (CWA).

One of the new executive orders will specifically limit such environmental reviews of the projects. Specifically, it will direct the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to clarify a section of the CWA that gives states authority over their water quality permits.

Reaction: Environmental groups and Democratic lawmakers were quick to push back on the president's plan, arguing the move threatened state rights.

Washington Gov. Jay InsleeJay Robert InsleeOvernight Energy: Trump officials formally revoke California emissions waiver | EPA's Wheeler dodges questions about targeting San Francisco over homelessness | 2020 Dems duke it out at second climate forum Yang floats nominating Inslee as 'climate czar' The Hill's Campaign Report: Democrats clash over future of party in heated debate MORE (D), along with the state Attorney General Bob Ferguson (D), called the orders "an unprecedented assault" on states' rights to protect their water under the CWA.

"No amount of politicking will change the facts -- states have full authority under the Clean Water Act to protect our waters and ensure the health and safety of our people. Washington will not allow this or any presidential administration to block us from discharging that authority lawfully and effectively," Inslee, a 2020 presidential candidate, said in the statement.

More on Trump's move here.

 

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HOUSE DEMS URGE SENATE TO REJECT BERNHARDT: More than 50 Democratic House members have signed a letter asking their colleagues in the upper chamber to oppose David Bernhardt's nomination as secretary of the Interior Department.

"As our climate crisis only grows in urgency and magnitude, it is more important than ever that we have a secretary who will defend and protect our natural resources and wildlife, not someone who will advance policies that destroy our environment," Rep.  Donald McEachinAston (Donale) Donald McEachinRacial politics roil Democratic Party CBC lawmakers rip Justice Democrats for targeting black lawmakers for primaries Harris hops past Biden in early race for Black Caucus support MORE (D-Va.) wrote in the letter. "Unfortunately, Mr. Bernhardt has a lengthy record of advancing corporate interests at the expense of the environment."

In his letter, McEachin denounced Bernhardt's nomination, calling him "an influential corporate lobbyist with extensive ties to fossil fuel interests" who has been instrumental in advancing President TrumpDonald John TrumpMarine unit in Florida reportedly pushing to hold annual ball at Trump property Giuliani clashes with CNN's Cuomo, calls him a 'sellout' and the 'enemy' Giuliani says 'of course' he asked Ukraine to look into Biden seconds after denying it MORE's pro-polluter agenda."

The big picture: Bernhardt is likely to be confirmed Thursday, despite long-running questions about his tenure as a lobbyist and continued ties to the industry he once represented.

Why he's controversial: Bernhardt has come under fire for potential conflicts of interest, including reportedly continuing to lobby for a former client after saying he'd stopped. Democrats have since asked that client, Westlands Water District, to turn over documents tied to Bernhardt.

The letter lists a number of actions Bernhardt has taken during his tenure as deputy secretary of the department, saying they have advanced the interests of polluting industries and thus should disqualify him from serving as secretary.

More on the letter here.

 

DEM LAWMAKER LOOKS TO BEEF UP GREEN NEW DEAL: Rep. Scott PetersScott H. PetersDuncan Hunter gets another GOP challenger Hillicon Valley: Facebook won't remove doctored Pelosi video | Trump denies knowledge of fake Pelosi videos | Controversy over new Assange charges | House Democrats seek bipartisan group on net neutrality House Democrats seek bipartisan working group on net neutrality MORE (D-Calif.) says there's a way to speed up the process of passing climate change legislation: Revisit bills that garnered bipartisan support and fill in the gaps of the Green New Deal.

The California Democrat on Wednesday previewed to The Hill what he calls a "climate playbook" that examines legislation introduced since 2017, arguing the already vetted bills could help give a boost to legislative action on climate following the introduction of the Green New Deal resolution.

"In our committees we're having a lot of hearings in the nature of informational hearings, or kind of inquisition hearings," Peters said in an interview with The Hill. "Now maybe we can start having legislative hearings."

Peters said he hopes the playbook will be viewed as a response to the Green New Deal by "filling in the blanks" with legislative goals that were not detailed in Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezProgressives push for changes to Pelosi drug pricing plan Sanders defends job losses from ending use of fossil fuels Trump spokeswoman: Health care will be 'big' selling point for union workers MORE's (D-N.Y.) resolution.

The Green New Deal, he said, was well intentioned and "aspirational," but inflicted some damage on moderate Democrats after Republicans seized on some aspects of it.

"I think the important thing is some of the moderates we're getting killed by the way the anti-climate Republicans were defining the Green New Deal -- no cars, no cows, no planes," Peters said. "But that's not really what it's about. What it's about is the bills we will pass."

Peters, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said he wanted to pull from past bills and see what proposals Republican and Democrats had offered on key topics like carbon pricing, energy efficiency and electric vehicles. The biggest challenge, he said, was that there was no easy place to find all of the legislation.

Many of the 53 bills in the playbook, he said, are passable since they had bipartisan support.

"We can help define what our action on climate is by looking at what's already done," he said.

The politics: The Democratic Party has weathered a few storms, including internally, in terms of how best to approach climate change legislation. While progressive members in the House, led by Ocasio-Cortez, have pushed a comprehensive approach to climate, some veteran lawmakers have favored piecemeal bills.

More on Peters' plan here.

 

FROM THE HILL'S OPINION SECTION:

  1. Boyden Gray, White House counsel under President George H. W. Bush, arguesthat legislation targeting OPEC could backfire.

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

Lawmakers jump to fund red tide research, but some environmentalists are wary, The Miami Herald reports.

Jude rules that Cliven Bundy's public lands claim is 'simply delusional,' The Oregonian reports.

China plans subsidy-free solar and wind projects, Bloomberg reports.

 

ON TAP THURSDAY:

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will examine energy innovation and other solutions to address climate change

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: 

Trump moves to ease barriers to natural gas pipeline construction

House Dems urge Senate to reject Bernhardt nomination to Interior

Bipartisan senators offer bill to expand electric vehicle tax credit

Dem lawmaker offers tool for 'filling in the blanks' of Green New Deal

Trump administration renews interest in Florida offshore drilling: report